Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling…

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

How many of you have read this verse before? There’s something profound in it, yet so simple you may overlook it. Read it again.

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling…”

This is a departure from the lifestyle of modern Christians in the West today. True, most will agree with this verse with their lips and in their minds, but so many qualifiers are hung from this phrase that you can no longer see the truth beneath the clown costume others have put on it.

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling… sometimes.

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling… into habitual sin.

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling… even though you sin every day.

Present you faultless… after death removes our sinful flesh.

Present you faultless… because God sees the sacrifice of Jesus and not our sin.

I don’t really want to go on.

The modern Church has abandoned the truth of God and has substituted a man-pleasing, sin-accepting false gospel in its place. They can read the same words everyone else can, but because they love their sin more than God, and because they know in their hearts they do not meet the expectations of God and probably have a seared conscience, they have to add these qualifiers.

Many in the Church – I would dare to say most in the Church – have never felt godly sorrow leading to repentance. Why do I say this? Because many of them would admit to sinning every day in word, thought, and deed. They are still in the “trying to overcome” stage where if they think they beat themselves up enough and make themselves miserable enough, the temptations they have will go away and they’ll stop falling for the same lies over and over again. A despicable few go so far as to glory in their sins and point to their sin as an example of their humility and right standing before God. (I have met someone like this.)

Allow me to make something clear: if you are still persisting in your sin, then you have not repented of your sin. You are still a slave to your sin, which means you are not a slave of righteousness, which means you have not been born again.

Which means you do not know God.

But rather than fall on their knees in fear of the God who will visit his wrath upon them, instead of repenting of their sin and pleading for pardon, instead of letting the blood of Jesus cleanse them of all unrighteousness, they come up with excuses. They implement regimens intended to prevent them from committing the sin, perhaps, but these are external acts leaving the root cause untreated. Their hearts are never changed. Rather than abandon their pride and place all their trust in the one who is able to keep them from falling, they try to improve their own lives little by little. Many of them will have the gall to accuse of pride all those who do place all their trust in God.

The solution is simple, although for those whose pride has been deeply implanted, difficult to implement. Believe in Jesus and the one who sent him. Repent of your sins. Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. God has the power to save you from sin, and if you love God, you will keep his commandments anyway. You will no longer live day-to-day fretting about whether or not you will sin some way or another, no longer agonize about every decision you make, because you will know that you love God and seek to live for him in all you do.

Believe in the one who is able to keep you from stumbling, and who will present you blameless before God.

Definition of Sin

The following is an essay I wrote for ChristianPaws, on a workable definition of sin. It is not quite complete, but its purpose was to write something as a starting point. As it turns out, there hasn’t been as much discussion as originally anticipated.

Purpose

One of the most foundational concepts to understand in Christianity is sin. All other doctrines: the fallen state and nature of man, the nature of Christ, the atonement, and regeneration are all affected by this singular concept, and to err in understanding what sin is will create confusion when trying to understand everything else. Thus, we have chosen to let our first post in the “What does the Bible say about…” series to be about sin.

While everyone reading this doubtless already has an idea of what sin is, including the author of this essay, I think it best to lay aside these presuppositions for the time being and focus only on what the Bible has to say about sin. We will use the Scriptures to develop a workable definition of sin, which we will be able to reference in all future discussions if this essay does as intended. By doing so, it is assumed that the Bible is authoritative and serves as the basis for all doctrine that we develop. (The forum leadership assumes the Bible is absolute, complete, and inerrant, and viewpoints contrary to this will not be entertained.) Once this definition is developed, it will then be possible to proceed to other topics, such as where sin comes from, what it does and how it separates man from God, and the consequence of sin.

Defining Sin

Sin is understood as having two different aspects: one of nature, and one of action. As to the first, there are multiple viewpoints as to whether mankind is born with a depraved, sinful nature; or if mankind makes his nature depraved on account of the choices he makes; or if it describes a state of being that the person possesses yet is not guilty of. As such, the exact form of this aspect of sin will not be examined, and we will simply agree with the Scriptures that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

The second aspect is what we will be more concerned about in this essay. In this aspect fall all acts of sin. The Bible ascribes characteristics such as unrighteousness, unbelief, and rebellion to this aspect of sin; in other words, it is what people think of when they hear phrases such as “This person has sinned.” This is the consideration of sin as a verb. We will now look at various passages of Scripture describing and defining sin.

1 John 3:4
Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. (NASB)
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (KJV)

James 4:17
Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. (NASB)
Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. (KJV)

I have quoted these two verses because these are among the two clearest examples in the New Testament of a definition for sin. These two verses also provide the two fundamental qualities that any definition of sin must possess for it to be considered both Scriptural and adequate. The first is that sin must include breaking a law of God: “sin is lawlessness” or “sin is the transgression of the law”. This should be too obvious to expound. The second comes from James.For something to be sin according to him requires knowledge of what is right to do, coupled with a decision not to do the right thing.

This allows the following definition of sin: a willful violation of a known law of God

The definition accounts for both qualities given in the quoted verses, and it adheres to the thought that sin is rebellion and requires a deliberate turning against what one knows to be right. For example, we can consider a situation with which we are all likely familiar: driving the speed limit on a road. Say someone was driving on a road with a posted speed limit of 55mph, and turns onto another similar road with a posted speed limit of 45mph. Say further that the speed limit sign on this new road has been knocked down, and that the driver has never been on this road before. Assuming the speed limit on the new road is the same as the one he was last on, the driver continues on this new road at 55mph, or 10mph in excess of the legal speed limit. A police officer pulls him over and tickets him for speeding.

Was this sin? It was not, according to the definition given above. The driver did not know the speed limit was now 45mph, and had no way of knowing that was the new speed limit. He was not willfully violating the posted speed limit, but made what was revealed to be a wrong assumption about what he was and was not allowed to do. Nevertheless, he broke the law, and when he found out, he was obligated to pay the fine for doing so.

This is not the same situation as if he had seen the 45mph speed limit sign, or if a friend had told him that the speed limit dropped, but he continued at the old speed anyway. In this situation, he not only knew the law, but he was willfully ignoring it. That would be sin. Also, if he thought the speed limit dropped to 45mph, but he continued at 55mph anyway, that would also be a sin because he intended to do what he knew to be wrong.

This simultaneously reveals two important distinctions to make. The first is that sin is not merely outward action, but is a decision of the will and of the heart. If someone wants to do something they think is wrong, and they do it even though according to the law it is not wrong, then it is still sin for them because they were still acting in rebellion.

The second is that there is an ethical distinction between “willful sin” and “mistake,” although there may not always be a legal one. In the first, a person knows what to do and deliberately does not do it, and he is rightly condemned for this act of rebellion. In the second, a person is presumably acting with good intent and is doing what he thinks is right, but due to ignorance of right and wrong ends up doing something wrong. In the speeding example given, the driver was not trying to speed, he thought he was doing the right thing by going the posted speed limit, but he found out he was wrong. This is a mistake.

Objections

At this point someone may be tempted to reply, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” As this saying is not in the Scriptures, you are better served if you abandon that phrase, and you will not make much headway here.

I realize this definition will make some people unhappy. I will be accused of advocating a definition of sin that is too narrow, one that does not take into account all the facts. So I will now begin to address that. It is a common error in the Church to define sin as “missing the mark” (the literal definition of “hamartano”) and to extrapolate from Romans 3:23 that everything that falls short of God’s perfection is sin.

While the definition of sin as “missing the mark” is literal, it is not useful unless one also defines what the mark is, and by what sense the mark is missed. For this reason, attempting to define sin as “missing the mark” is inadequate. Nevertheless, I am obligated to comment that this definition of sin would benefit my definition, because one has to be able to know about a mark and see it before they can ever aim at it, and one must also have some ability to aim, although miss.

Attempting to define sin as anything that falls short of God’s absolute perfection is not merely inadequate, it is absurd because that renders mankind – both saved and condemned –  sinful every second of every day. This would mean that forgetting someone’s name, or not scoring 100% on a test, or tripping over a root would be sins, because they display imperfections. Because humans are limited by nature, that means everything they do falls short of what God would do, so everything they ever do is sin. This produces so many absurdities in Scripture that it would take pages to list them all, but it would especially render as nonsense such verses as

And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:11 KJV)
Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. (John 5:14 KJV)
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: (1 John 2:1 KJV)

We could continue. The command “go sin no more” and “write that you not sin” both imply that sin is something mankind is able to avoid, so sin cannot be suitably defined as anything departing from God’s absolute perfection. That would mean Jesus expects us to be God, or that John thought his readers could become like God, which is nowhere attested in Scripture and cannot be defended. While the definition is borne out of a desire to magnify God, it simply creates more problems than it solves, it does not work in practice, and it must be rejected.

Testing the Definition

It is good to test definitions as well. Different definitions can be discussed endlessly, but how do they fare when put into practice? A few examples will be provided.

Genesis 18:20
And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their [willful violation of a known law of God] is very grievous;
And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their [deviation from God’s absolute perfection] is very grievous;

Both work here, but the second is odd.

Genesis 20:9
Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great [willful violation of a known law of God]? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done
Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great [deviation from God’s absolute perfection]? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done

The first definition does not fit here, and the second is also a poor fit. Probably this would fit under the idea of a sin of ignorance or a mistake and identifies a weakness in both definitions.

1 Samuel 12:23
Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should [willfully violate a known law of God] against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way:
Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should [deviate from God’s absolute perfection] against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way:

The first definition fits, the second is very awkward.

1 Samuel 15:25
Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my [willful violation of a known law of God], and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.
Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my [deviation from God’s absolute perfection], and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.

The first definition fits, the second does not make sense.

John 9:2
And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did [willfully violate a known law of God], this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did [deviate from God’s absolute perfection], this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

The first fits, the second makes no sense in context.

Romans 2:12
For as many as have [willfully violated a known law of God] without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have [willfully violated a known law of God] in the law shall be judged by the law;
For as many as have [deviated from God’s absolute perfection] without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have [deviated from God’s absolute perfection] in the law shall be judged by the law;

Both work here, but the second is odd. Why tell us about something we could never avoid?

Romans 5:14
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not [willfully violated a known law of God] after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not [deviated from God’s absolute perfection] after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come

Again, while both could work, the second is awkward. Deviated from God’s perfection differently?

Luke 17:3
Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother [willfully violate a known law of God] against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him
Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother [deviate from God’s absolute perfection] against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him

The second definition fails, it does not fit the context.

John 5:14
Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: [willfully violate a known law of God] no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.
Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: [deviate from God’s absolute perfection] no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

The second definition render’s Jesus’ command impossible. It must be rejected.

John 8:11
And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and [willfully violate a known law of God] no more.
And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and [deviate from God’s absolute perfection] no more.

See above. The second definition is impossible.

Romans 6:15
What then? shall we [willfully violate a known law of God], because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
What then? shall we [deviate  from God’s absolute perfection], because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

Only the first definition makes sense in context. Clearly, sins are avoidable.

1 Timothy 5:20
Them that [willfully violate a known law of God] rebuke before all, that others also may fear
Them that [deviate from God’s absolute perfection] rebuke before all, that others also may fear

Rebuke people for not being God? Absurd.

It is not the intent of this essay to provide other examples, although they can be examined in one’s own time when suitable for the reader.

Conclusion

In conclusion, sin is treated by the Scriptures as something that can be avoided, implied from all the commands to do right and not evil, and the simple fact that people are held accountable for the sins they commit. This means any definition of sin must acknowledge that it is an act of the will, and prefers that they have some knowledge of what is right and wrong. Any definition of sin that makes sin a malady, and something mankind has no control over or no choice but to commit, must be rejected. A “sin of ignorance,” or a “mistake,” while wrong is not treated as the same as a willful act, and so the definition of sin must also reflect this. The definition given at the outset does have its weaknesses and requires some qualification to correct these weaknesses, but it is faithful to the Scriptures and meets the ethical requirement for sin while acknowledging the legal requirement as well.

Regarding Unintentional Sins

One other important definition regarding sin is that of unintentional sins, or sins of ignorance. These are terms often mentioned, and they do appear in translations of the Scriptures, so they ought to be accounted for. I provide here two instances of sin, one unintentional and one deliberate, from the book of Numbers.

And if any soul sin through ignorance, then he shall bring a she goat of the first year for a sin offering. And the priest shall make an atonement for the soul that sinneth ignorantly, when he sinneth by ignorance before the LORD, to make an atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him. Ye shall have one law for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them. But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the LORD, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him. (Numbers 15:27-31)

When presenting His Law to the children of Israel, God made a distinction between sins of ignorance and sins of presumption, or what would be called a willful sin. Sins of ignorance could be atoned for, but a willful sin could not be atoned for; the penalty was being cut off, or death. Furthermore, there are only these two categories of sin that we are given. While this same distinction is not to be pressed too strongly today, because the only unforgivable sin is that of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, this does serve to establish that God does view certain sins differently from others.

We cannot stop here, however. This passage in Numbers allows us to conclude that sins resulting in being cut off were what God called presumptuous or willful sins, and sins resulting in atonement were what God called ignorant sins.

This leads to some interesting results. According to the Old Testament, sins such as lying, theft, even rape were not punishable by death, so they would fall under what Numbers calls “unintentional” sins. If you do not believe me about that last one, examine Deuteronomy 22:28-29.

If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.
The punishment is not being cut off, so it cannot fit in the defiant sin category. But are they unintentional in the sense the word is understood today? Taking into account the above, I do not see how the case could ever be made that they are. Rather, the sinner knew that what he did was wrong, but he did not sin for the purpose of spiting God; he sinned because he wanted the pleasure resulting from that sin.

Here is another example from Exodus:

If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit. But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:28,29)

Here, the owner of the ox is not blamed unless the owner knew the ox had a history of violent behavior. It was his responsibility to know what he needed to do to keep the ox restrained, yet did not do it, so it was sin. If he did not know, then it was not sin and he did not even have to offer a means of atonement (although restitution was necessary).

Yet another, this time from Leviticus:

And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty; Or if his sin, which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge: then he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned. (Leviticus 4:27-28)

In this passage, the person is clearly guilty of sin, because a sin offering is required and the passage states unequivocally that he sinned. This is also a scenario of sinning through ignorance, so that may allow for the possibility of sinning without meaning to. However, that understanding of the verse is not without problem. Remember that people are responsible for knowing right and wrong, and they should take the initiative to know what is permitted and forbidden. Failure to do this is itself sin. What is possible here is someone forgot a portion of the law, or even did something without checking their knowledge of the law to make sure they were not in violation of it. Then in retrospect he realized he did wrong, or was made aware of the wrongness of his action by someone else, and then he was required to present a sin offering. It is unlikely that genuine ignorance is being spoken of here, because of the example in Exodus where genuine ignorance is not deemed sin. To be consistent, one must apply the same standard both times.

Therefore, I would propose that the terminology “sins in ignorance” or “sins unintentionally” is not a good understanding of the term. Rather, it should be contrasted with deliberately defiant sins and not be thought of as truly accidental in the modern sense of the word. As these are not legitimate mistakes either, the term “mistake” does not apply. It is better to not try to come up with a novel category for the term and simply use the term “sin” for this type of sin.

Original Sin Revisited

A few years ago, I wrote an essay against the doctrine of original sin. Since then, my position has been refined a little, or at the very least I can describe my objections to the doctrine better. What follows is a revision of the original post.

One of the most common beliefs in the church today is that people are born sinners. Popularized by Augustine, it quickly became the dominant position of the church, a trend which continues today largely thanks to the efforts of John Calvin. His fingerprints remain on the teaching today in the form of the T in the TULIP acronym, “Total Depravity.”

The problem with this teaching’s popularity is that it is very wrong.

First, let us begin with some of the passages used to support the original sin doctrine. You will discover that these are “mystery passages” that only support original sin if original sin is assumed from the outset and read into the verse. I want to get one of the easier ones out of the way first. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That is one of the verses advocates of this doctrine use. This is one of their weaker passages, as a plain reading of the verse says simply, “Everyone has sinned.” It makes no comment how often they sin or when they began to sin. The weakness here is in the “plain reading” I gave above. Who is “everyone”? Is it all without exception, or are there some exceptions to “all”? At least one exception comes to mind, as it well should. Jesus is part of all, yet He did not sin (see Hebrews 4:15).  Jesus was made in all things like His people. He was born with the same flesh anyone else has, with the same desires and weaknesses that come with it.

But if there is one exception, might there be others? I answer this question later.

Another popular passage is in Psalm 51, verse 5 to be exact. “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” The psalmist is the passive subject in this verse. He was shapen in iniquity, it was not a choice he made. He was conceived in sin; he did not conceive himself. There is a sinner in this passage, but it is the mother. Context matters. In Psalm 51, David is confessing his sin to God. He traces history of sin all the way back to his conception, saying that even from that instant he has been in a world saturated by sin, and this has always been true.

A third passage is Romans 5:12 (and 18): “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” and “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” This is another of those “mystery passages” because the concept of being born a sinner or born with a sinful nature is nowhere in these verses. Sin entered the world because one person sinned. Because he sinned, he died. Furthermore, those who follow his example in sin also die. “death passed to all men because all have sinned.” Now, it is possible to take your understanding of this verse too far. Everything on this earth dies, whether or not it has a moral character. Animals die, plants die, insects die. Things run down. So physical death cannot be seen as immediate evidence of individual sin. As for the second verse, Calvinists and other original sin proponents ALWAYS take this verse ONLY as far as it suits their purposes and NEVER take the verse as a whole to the conclusion their logic demands. Paul gives two options for men:

  •  By the offense of one, judgment comes to all men
  • By the righteousness of one, the free gift comes to all men

Note that both judgment to condemnation and the free gift come to all men. Unless one wishes to hold to both inherited sin and universal salvation, there is a problem. Let us therefore approach the answer from reverse. We know from the Scriptures that not all will receive the free gift (there are some who will be cast into hell). Whether or not they receive the gift ends up being their choice (I’m not going to go far into free will versus determinism here.) The gift is offered to all, but not all will take it. Likewise, whether or not a person receives judgment depends on the choices they make, not the circumstances they are born into or whatever they happen to inherit.

Let us proceed to examine some passages of Scripture that do not support the original sin doctrine. The first comes from Romans 7:7-9. “What shall we say then? Isthe law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.”

This passage is fascinating because it unequivocally states that the speaker was alive before sin came into his life, and when sin came to life in him, he died. This must be a spiritual understanding of life and death because very rarely has someone come back to life from physical death, and the life-and-death illustration would not work if taken physically.

The passage does not say, “I thought I was alive even though I was sinning” or anything of the sort. To conclude this, as some do, is to read into the verse. There was no sin at the time (there was no law), so he was spiritually alive. This is in direct contradiction to what the original sin proponents would have us believe.

Another passage comes from Ecclesiastes. Now, this book is dangerous to use (as are Job, Psalms, and Proverbs) because of the “genre” they are in, but this passage is hard to get around. It is chapter 7, verse 29. “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.”

See that? God has made man upright. God does not create sinners, but they make themselves that way. Even though just a few verses prior the author said there was not a just one on earth who did not sin, he still acknowledged the truth that God makes man upright. He is not responsible for their sinning; it is their choice.

Another reason not to believe in original sin is because it slanders God.

The Psalmist said God formed him in his mother’s womb (Ps. 139: 13). And since there is nothing that makes him special from any other man, it can be reasonably concluded that all people are created by God—this miracle begins at conception. If people are born sinners, what other choice do we have than to say that God created us sinners? It was God who made the decision for us to be that way. This means God creates people to be sinners because of something their ancestors did, and then blames them for being sinners. More on that in a moment.

Also, Genesis says we were created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26). God does not sin. He can be tempted (Deut. 6:16), but He cannot sin, as it goes against His nature. The original sin advocate is therefore forced to accept these two beliefs: “God created man in His image” and “Man is born a sinner.” These do not go together. For if man is created in God’s image, and man is created a sinner, then God is a sinner. As stated, this is unbiblical. The more correct belief is this: “Man is born with the capacity to be tempted, and it is man’s choice whether or not he will sin.”

The doctrine of original sin also makes God a tyrant. If people are born sinners, and they are naturally inclined to sin, what right does God have to condemn them for the way He created them? He has none. So advocates of original sin have to come up with a way to decorate their cruel god with acts of love, saying that God, in His sovereignty, can act however He wishes. This is true, but as God is also just, and condemnation of one who cannot help his actions is unjust, that claim falls flat.

Original sin advocates also say that Adam was a figurehead for the entire human race, and since he sinned, we are all born sinners because of that and depending on whom you ask also share in his guilt. (There are competing theories all saying more or less the same thing.) What does the Bible say, though? It certainly never says Adam was the federal head or moral representative for all his descendants. Ezekiel 18: 20 says, “The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.” In other words, we are all responsible for our own sin. Adam’s sin was Adam’s sin, not his descendants’. What Adam did, however, was open up the way for all to be tempted.

Before I go, I will include this last argument. If all are born sinners, then what of the babies who are stillborn, aborted, or die in infancy? The original sin advocate has no choice but to say that these must go to hell. They’re dishonest enough to come up with an excuse (age of accountability), but it is unsatisfactory. Sinners, if they are not redeemed, must go to hell. God never provided an alternate solution. The original sin position must include infants in this.

But infants do not sin. Those who have no knowledge of right or wrong cannot sin. They must be taught right and wrong, and before that time, they are innocent. It is when they are able to make a moral choice (“This is right and I will do it” or “This is wrong but I will do it”) that they are held accountable.

See, moral agents have never needed any “help” to sin. Satan and his followers sinned just fine without one. Adam and Eve also pulled it off. So why invent a concept explaining sin when the Bible is clear enough about it? According to the Scriptures, sin comes into being because people follow after their own desires and want to sin, not because of circumstances beyond their control. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:14,15) People are deceived by sin because it is so appealing at first, and soon they desire to sin. (Proverbs 21:10, Psalm 52:3).

Keep to the Scriptures instead of coming up with an excuse that belongs in a fairy tale.

Be perfect

Do you know why I insist so strongly on preaching the message of holiness? It is because this is one of those doctrines that is not a pet subject. No, it is one of those teachings that is very important to get right. So important, in fact, that to deliberately reject it is to heap destruction upon yourself in the end. To miss out on this is to miss out on a key element of the faith.

Invariably people are going to ask, “Levi, why is it you always talk about this? Why, of the hundreds of messages you could give, do you always return to this one?”

The reason is simple. It is vitally important and few are giving it.

It is my discovery that many people don’t know what to think when they first hear about holiness or perfection. A lot of this is because it has never been adequately explained, as most denominations don’t really emphasize it (and even those who do are error-prone). How can one understand what one has never heard of before? It’s senseless to expect understanding in this case.

The fact that people have a weird view of both “holiness” and “perfection” does not help. So, a couple definitions. “Holiness” means “the quality of being set apart for God’s use.” By this alone, all Christians are holy, as God has done a work in their life for His benefit and has instructed them to do His will and equipped them to be able to do so. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

The other difficult word is “perfection” or “perfect.” (It is important to know what these mean because God expects us to be perfect.) “Perfect” does not mean “totally flawless in every way, unable to make any mistakes.” God created us human, He created us to be limited beings who will never know everything and will never be like God in every way. He doesn’t want us to be that. God wants us to love Him without competition with the world. God wants us to love our neighbor and enemy without partiality. That is what it means to be perfect.

Now, there is another sense of “perfect” that the Scriptures speak of. This is a perfection none living have obtained, because it involves knowing Christ fully, which Paul said could not be without also knowing His death and resurrection personally, not just vicariously. So we are never completely mature in the sense of knowing Christ while on this earth. This is something we always work toward. Do keep in mind, though, that the same Paul who said, “not that I am already perfect” referred to himself and the others at Philippi as perfect just a few verses later in the exact same chapter, because he was talking then about the perfection in love that is expected of us and that we are able to do.

You have noticed by now, if you read my other journals, that I assume Christians are able to love God without wavering. Others who call themselves by Christ make a similar claim, but they do not go far enough. They have a tendency to immediately follow up these exhortations with a reminder that they are bound to waver at some point or another because they are still in the flesh and they still have a “sinful nature.” I do not waffle in this manner. Yes, it is possible for a Christian to sin and fall away, but the Bible gives us no reason to believe that has to happen, so I do not teach it as inevitable.

The thing is, this is not a doctrinal difference that is secondary. It cannot be brushed aside under the category of “Non-essential to the faith.” The difference is in fact so strong that the holiness-minded gospel is not the same as the you-will-sin gospel. One says the victory is certain, and experienced day by day through the grace of God, who gives us the strength to honor Him and love Him at all times. The other teaches a gradual victory peppered with defeat, where God is dishonored by His children and, what is worse, does not see the sins His people commit.

Now it is absolutely true that growing in the faith is a gradual process. I mentioned this earlier, but I will mention it again because it’s important. In Philippians 3, Paul talks about this. He said he was not already perfect, or not already mature, because he had not experienced death and the future resurrection himself, as Christ had experienced death and His resurrection. So far, we only know it vicariously, but some day in the future we will know Christ fully. So we know in that regard we still have a long way to go, and every day we should learn more about who God is. No one expects us to know everything right away, and God certainly does not demand it of us.

This does not mean, of course, that one need know what the holiness doctrine is in order to be saved. For that matter, the very name “holiness doctrine” makes a simple element of the gospel sound like something extra, something secret. That is not how it should be. What matters is that the Christian live out his faith.

As a side note, don’t be misled by an ill-approached “faith alone” version of justification. We are justified by faith apart from works of the Law, but we also see that “man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24) The Law itself is unable to save, so works of the Law do not lead to salvation, but we cannot have a useful faith that does not also have works accompanying it. Saving faith always leads to works. If the works are absent, then so is the saving faith. You CANNOT dedicate your life to God once and then go back to the way things used to be, and assume all is well. It will not be.

So the consequences are severe. If you do not abide in God, then you will not see the kingdom of God. Do not let that be you.

Nearing Easter

We are nearing the end of what is often referred to as Holy Week in the Church. This was the most climactic week of Jesus’ life, without doubt. The crowds already know who he is, and many of them are still hyped because of the miracle they had witnessed not far from Jerusalem – a man who had been dead for four days was walking and talking again, healthy and alive. So a few days later when Jesus stages his “grand entry” into Jerusalem, naturally the crowds are enthusiastic. They are waving palm branches and hailing the arrival of their king. They are celebrating. He is teaching in the temple or outside Jerusalem every day. The people can’t get enough of him.

And four days later they are calling for his death. After being falsely accused of sedition and experiencing a mockery of a trial, and scorned by the rulers of the day, he is finally taken to be scourged and killed in the most painful and humiliating way the Romans could imagine.

They missed it. Their king had come to them, although they were looking for someone else. Someone who would overthrow their oppressors and deliver their nation back to them. Although, if they had been paying attention…

The Messiah was presented to them on the 10th day of the month, just before the Passover, when the sacrificial lamb was selected. The lamb had to be without blemish, and after its selection it was to be out for all to see until the time of sacrifice. And then, on the 14th day of the month the Messiah was put to death at the same time as the Passover lamb, according to John. So on Sunday the Messiah appeared to the people, and on Thursday they killed him.

He spent three days and nights in the tomb, and sometime Saturday night he was resurrected. When women came to the tomb on the first day of the week, he was already gone.

Jesus’ death and resurrection are the two pivotal points in history upon which all else hangs. Jesus bore our sins on the cross (it was not technically a payment for our sin, which I’ve mentioned in the past but that’s a topic for another time). He was the sacrifice for our sin, our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) and the last sacrifice that would ever be required (Heb 10:10-12). Because of this sacrifice, we can be justified before God. We can be forgiven and be spared the wrath of God. We die with him, to use Paul’s terminology, and so we live with him. We are set free from sin and made free to live holy lives, since we have been cleansed of all sin.

But his death would not have meant as much without the resurrection. Indeed, had it not happened, we would be the most pitiable of people. For all that, we would still be doomed to die, because even God would not have been able to conquer death. If he cannot, what hope do we have? If he is not raised, we are all still in our sins. We are all the same way we were when we came to God, and He has done nothing to help us. Thanks be to God that death was defeated that day! We do have hope. We are assured the victory, because it is God who works in us and equips us every day.

Too radical?

A few weeks ago, I attended a church small group based on a recommendation from someone at another church back in Clemson. Since I was still looking for a church at the time, I decided to check it out, hoping to find like-minded believers to fellowship with. What interested me at the time was that this group was going to read through and discuss David Platt’s book Radical. Now, I have not read this book yet, although several who know me say I should, but my sister has offered to let me read her copy, so odds are in a couple weeks I’ll have the chance to read the book for myself.

So I won’t mention the contents of the book right now. It’s difficult to talk about what one has not read.
Anyway, the first week of discussion, the group leader wanted to talk about what it meant to be totally devoted to God. Yes! That is a wonderful topic of discussion, and one that Christians need to be reminded of, whether to exhort or encourage. As in any group discussion, several ideas were tossed around, such as praying and reading the Bible, or doing what God wills, or living a life of obedience to God. Sure, these might qualify as “Sunday School answers,” but they’re accurate enough. They are all good things to do. The gist of the discussion was that we needed to be devoted to God.

Most of you know me well enough to guess what I brought up rather quickly. While we’re on the topic of being radical, of encouraging one another to be totally devoted to God, why not live every day in perfect obedience to God? Perfect obedience is a product of perfect love, which will please Him. Despite our day-to-day life in this mortal body, complete with its weaknesses, why not determine to be pleasing to God at all times, and live a life that never fails?

Apparently this is a little too radical. Talk about devotion is wonderful, but once that concept is presented… well, that’s a little too devoted. We can’t do that, because we still have a flesh and blood body that has desires, and we still have our sinful nature that we’re constantly fighting against. And sometimes we will fall, although we repent immediately afterward and are restored in our relationship with God.

It’s too hard, in other words. The deck is stacked against us. Sooner or later (sooner in the eyes of most), we’re going to mess up and sin against God. It’s just part of being imperfect humans. Praise God that He does not see our failings, because He forgives us and sees Jesus instead! We are spotless in His eyes!
It sounds wonderful except for the fact that it’s totally wrong.

I am not denying that we still have a flesh that still has desires. To deny that would be to speak absurdity. What is wrong, however, is to go ahead and decide that we will always struggle against our sinful flesh.

“For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

When Paul says our old man is crucified with Him (that is Christ), he does not mean our bodies are done away with, along with all the desires that go with them. What he does mean is that our old way of life is gone. A lying habit, the desire to steal, to commit sexual sin, a proud heart… all of that and more is what used to define us, but defines us no longer. All these sins that used to hold us in bondage no longer have dominion over us.

We are finally free to tell temptation, “NO!” We are finally free to choose to obey. This is why Paul tells us to consider ourselves dead to sin. It is not that we are unable to sin (we always will be), but that this attitude no longer defines us. Whenever temptation comes our way, or our pasts try to haunt us, we can refuse them.

If we have this freedom, why squander it? Why go ahead and assume that every once in a while you will tell God that you would rather serve the world and your passions than Him? I thought we loved God. Are we going to – even occasionally – act as though we hate Him?

God forbid!

Why even entertain the thought? Let’s actually try something radical. Let’s determine to live our lives in a way that shows our love for Him, every hour of every day! Who cares if the world and the rest of the church says it’s impossible? God doesn’t tell us it’s impossible. In fact, He tells us He’ll give us everything to make it possible! Our old ways died when He made us a new creation, He has indwelt us with His Holy Spirit, and He’s already promised to provide a way of escape from temptation.

That makes it even better. We don’t have to rely on ourselves to live for Him all the time. If we did, then we probably would fail eventually, and often. But we are not asked to rely on ourselves. We are asked to rely on Him.

How about it?

Shifting the Blame

It has been proposed, both periodically and recently, that the furry fandom has little to nothing of value for the Christian, and that any attempt for a Christian to begin a ministry in this field is doomed to failure because of the nature of the fandom; that is, furry and Christian are incompatible and a union of the two causes a Christian to backslide. An individual’s life is appealed to as evidence for this claim. He stumbles upon an area of the fandom that catches his interest. Perhaps this area isn’t even one of the dark ones, which we already know are filled with garbage. Then, for some reason, thoughts that do not please God enter into his mind. He entertains the thoughts, even though he knows he shouldn’t. And so he enters the downward spiral into bondage, trapped by sins in his life.

Admittedly, my above example is a gross generalization of what actually happens. I could instead have provided a specific example from my past, because I am too familiar with this bondage, but because of a desire to keep the blog as clean and viewer-friendly as possible, I have chosen not to do this. Perhaps another time you can hear.

Most if not all of my readers already know about the fandom’s dark side. This is the part of the fandom that exists to satisfy sexual desires inconsistent with God’s plan for man. Whether it be erotic artwork or stories, or a piece that satisfies any imaginable fetish, it is out there, and unless you’re a furry living under a rock you know where to find it. It does not take much of an imagination to wonder how exposing oneself to this would lead to anguish and bondage to sin. I won’t go into any more detail on this.

But what about those parts of the fandom that are innocent on the surface, but which cause individuals to stumble? This, I think, is where the debate lies. The dangers of the obvious dark side are present and known to all who wish to see them.

Quickly, before I continue, I want to present what I label as innocent in this post. I mean general artwork, stories, music, role-playing and interacting with others. Yes, these can be used for evil purposes, but that misses the point. I want to know if the fandom really does cause an individual to fall, or if the problem lies elsewhere.

I cannot deny that some professing believers in the fandom are slaves to sin, in rebellion against God. And I cannot deny that they appeared to be in a better position than this at some earlier point in their lives.

What is going on?

Frankly, it makes no sense to accuse the fandom of leading a person to sin. Yes, any aspect of the fandom can be twisted and used for a perverted means. But is that enough to condemn it? Are we to say that because it is not immune to corruption, we must destroy it? If we do, then we must reject everything in this world. Including Christianity. There exists nothing, no idea or culture, that can stand against the corrupting influence of mankind. Even if the core message is pure, humans will seize it and use it to further goals never intended by that message. Look at our history. The message of repentance and love that we have received has held true for two thousand years, and no one will be able to take that away from us. However, battles have been fought, people have been murdered, because people take advantage of the message and turn it into something it never should have been. But I veer from the topic.

The core of the fandom is fantasy. Furries imagine worlds populated by different creatures, and they create societies based on these worlds. They enter the realm of the possible, the wished-for. A cat and dog playing tennis, pretending to chase one’s tail in IRC… none of this, on its own, is bad. It may be strange to the outsider, but it’s not wrong. It is pretend. It’s only wrong if it becomes excessive and uproots God, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.

Because the fandom can be corrupted, because it can dominate one’s life, it is admitted that the fandom can be used as a means to cause a person to sin. However, that does not come close to the claim that the fandom is a gateway, and that those who value their relationship with God should abandon ship. The problem does not lie with the fandom itself.

The problem is the person.

It is not the fault of the fandom that a person falls to temptation. He falls because he acts on his own desires, as stated by James:

“…[E]ach one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

The desires he has may not even be sinful in themselves (and often aren’t). In the case of the furry fandom, there is something the fandom offers that, in moderation, is acceptable. But he isn’t pleased with that offering. He looks for a new thrill, or obsesses so much that it consumes his life. He does not exercise self-control, and the desires become something more. They become sins.

But the sin is too good. He doesn’t want to let it go. He knows he needs to. He knows it is wrong, but he is comfortable with it. Maybe he tries to let go of it. He turns his eyes and walks a few steps away, but a week later he’s embracing the sin again. It is his master, and he is the slave. On his own, there will be no escape.
However, pride will not allow him to admit that he is a slave to sin, especially if he supposedly repented years ago and calls himself a believer. So he looks for an excuse. The excuse can come in many forms, but in this instance, he places the blame on a conglomeration of ideas. He can avoid responsibility. But if he does this, then he will never come to repentance.

There is hope, of course. All is not lost. As John said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

What is to be done?

Instead of placing blame on the fandom, those who have allowed themselves to become slaves to their sin should take responsibility for their own actions. If the fandom has caused you to sin, then repent and remove yourself from the source of temptation. Do not look for excuses, and do not add to your sins by casting a legalistic gaze on other furries.

Develop a relationship with your Maker and move on.

1 John — Alleged Contradiction

(I’m moving this blog entry from the Coyote for Christ page.)

A few weeks back, a friend asked me to write a post on the topic of 1 John 1:8 and 3:9.

There are two verses in 1 John that sometimes cause confusion. When taken out of context, the verses appear to contradict each other. Do they? Well, that is the purpose of this post. My claim is that they do not, and I will seek to show this.

The verses are as follows:

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)

and

No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (1 John 3:9)

Probably the most important rule to remember when interpreting Scripture is context. It is entirely possible to rip just one verse out of a passage and make it mean the opposite of what it truly means – or at least misuse the verse to support one’s preconceived notions of what Scripture says. (Matthew 7:1 and 1 John 1:8 are frequent victims of out-of-context quoting.)
To get a better understanding of the two verses, let’s look at them in a broader context. I will still be limited in what verses I can include, but I will seek to be faithful to Scripture in all my efforts.

To better understand 1 John 1:8, we need to look at verses 5 to 10.

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

Verse 8 is most commonly used to support the notion that Christians sin, indeed that they must sin. This interpretation is false.

Verses 5-10 are a condensed version of the Gospel message. While many would immediately object to this claim on the basis that John is speaking only to Christians, bear with me for a time and you will see the reasoning behind my statement.

John begins by saying that God is light and there is no darkness in Him. There should be no reason to further explain this statement. It should be evident to all who profess Christ that God is good and only good. Professing Christians claim to trust God, and it would be absurd for them to trust in a being that could act against them just because it felt like being cruel.

John then continues with a series of if-then statements. He uses “we” the entire time, but it will become evident that there are two distinct groups of people in “we.”

First, he says if “we” claim to have fellowship with God (that is, to be saved) and walk in the darkness, “we” lie. Since God is light, someone who walks in the darkness cannot be His.

What is the darkness? “Darkness” is often used in the Scriptures to refer to sin (See John 1 and 3:19-21). Men, it says, preferred the darkness to the light, because then their evil deeds could remain hidden. But the light God brings exposes their wickedness.

The next set of “we” walks in the light. This is the first clue that the same group of people is not being talked about. How can a person walk in the light and the darkness simultaneously? The answer is, they can’t. Furthermore, the person who walks in the light, as God is in the light, is cleansed of all sin by the blood of Jesus Christ.

This talk about “we” continues in verses 8-10:

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

John just finished saying in verse 7 that believers have been cleansed of all sin. Shall we attempt to introduce another contradiction, in which John says that believers are cleansed of all sin, but if they claim to be cleansed of all sin, they are self-deceived and not having truth? Quite simply, that is absurd. If a person has been cleansed of all sin, as verse 7 states, it is natural and proper for him to proclaim that God has removed all sin from him, and that none remains.

In verse 8, he is referring to the other group of people within “we,” the ones who walk in the darkness. If they say they have no sin, they deceive themselves. They are not saved, so they are still sinning. In fact, by saying they do not sin, they make God a liar, because God says they do sin (see Romans 3:23).

But for those who insist upon the sinning Christian doctrine, a question. What if a time frame were introduced, say, five seconds? Does the statement “I can go five seconds without sin” violate the principle they claim in 1:8? If so, what about a smaller increment. A second? A millisecond? If these don’t, then why assume that longer time periods such as weeks, years, or even decades violate the verse? And if the small increments do, what then? Shall we state that there is not a single moment in time in which the Christian does not sin? This would come into conflict with their “continued sin” idea in chapter three.

However, if these sinners confess their sin, then God is faithful and just to forgive their sins and to cleanse them of all unrighteousness. This cleansing of all unrighteousness and all sin is a one-time act. Yes, it was written in the present tense. No, that does not denote a continued action. John was providing us with a series of hypothetical statements.

Now, how is this the Gospel message? Simple. Those who walk in darkness, who sin, do not have the truth, and they need to be saved. The way to do this is to believe (which is implied) and confess their sins, after which God will forgive them and cleanse them of all sin. Then they become those who walk in the light.

The next verse is 1 John 3:9. Just as with 1:8, the verse makes sense when viewed alongside the verses around it, beginning with verse 4:

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

(It is unfortunate that the NASB decided to use the word “practice” instead of “does,” since that creates a loophole.)

The situation here is similar to that of the 1 John 1 passage. In chapter 1, we were presented with two groups of people: one walks in the light and the other walks in darkness. Once again John is contrasting two different types of individuals, this time to set up a test.

The two types are evident: one practices (does) sin, and the other practices (does) righteousness. Because these are presented as opposites, we are shown that sin is the opposite of righteousness (or of righteous behavior). This indicates that sinlessness and righteousness are synonyms of each other. More on this in a moment.

In this passage, John states without reservation that true believers do not sin. Believers abide in God, and there is no sin in God. Also, John makes it simpler by saying that those who abide in God do not sin. In fact, those who do sin are of the devil. He even says that those who sin do not know God, nor have they known God.

Why is this important? John is establishing a test so that the readers can know whether or not they (or anyone else) are saved. He does this by contrasting children of the devil and children of God. One sins and the other does not.

A common interpretation of this passage forces the words “continue to” do sin, claiming the tense denotes a continuous present. This is wrong on at least two counts (only two will be mentioned here). The first is that the tense is not continuous present, it is gnomic present. It serves to state a truth for all time.

How do I know it is gnomic? Let’s illustrate with an example:

“Fish don’t say English words.”

This is gnomic. This is a principle, something that most people would agree to without need of proof. However, you might come across someone who says that the sentence means that fish don’t often say English words, or they do not continually say them. In order to understand what is meant, we need to look at the rest of the paragraph:

“If a creature says English words, it is not a fish.”

This proves the first sentence was gnomic, because the author was establishing a test based on a principle. This is exactly what John did. He said that those who are born of God do not do sin, and those who do sin are not born of God. If John was not using gnomic present, and if he were not assuming a universal truth, then he would not be able to establish the test. It would make no sense. The test would have too many exceptions to be valid.

And besides, even if “continue to do sin” or “do sin continually” were correct, what should we make of it? How many sins does it take for “continue to do sin” to describe someone? Ten a day? One hundred? Once? Even here, the interpretation destroys itself. If a person sinned even once after supposedly surrendering to Christ, then they “continue[d] to do sin.”

Secondly, John says that the children of the devil and children of God are obvious. If sin is permitted, the “obvious” qualifier becomes meaningless. Will we allow for the occasional sin? I touched on this above, but it is worth asking again. What is the sin:righteousness ratio that distinguishes a sinner from a saint? More than half? Three-quarters? To draw the line anywhere using this line of thinking, the distinction becomes purely arbitrary.

But no, the difference must be obvious. The only line that makes any sense in relationship to that verse is obedience one hundred percent of the time. With even one sin, the “saint” is acting like the sinner.

1 John 1:8 is a portion of the condensed gospel message. It is a warning to sinners, telling them that if they claim they are not sinners, they are liars and not of the truth. Verse 3:9 is a condition of a test to determine whether or not someone is a true believer. So we can see that 1 John 1:8 and 3:9 in no way contradict each other. Both affirm true Christians won’t sin.

Christians and Sin

A while back, there was some disagreement in a chat room regarding whether or not Christians could be fully obedient to God. It is my stance that they can be, and in fact are. Nevertheless, one person wrote something attempting to show how my beliefs were in error. This is a reply:

But what about the other type of failure? What about the failures of sin? First of all, I want to address a heresy that was recently brought up and hotly discussed. It is the belief of some that Christians do not sin. This is bunk.

I want to admit that I cut out the first half of the sermon, since it wasn’t relevant to what I was hoping to discuss. My opponent was quick to use the term “heresy,” though. And he has already placed his opinion out in the open. That makes it easier to address. Needless to say I disagree with his claim.

Some will even go so far as to say that it is the body which sins, but the spirit remains innocent. This is the belief of the Cathars, who are among the worst heretics of all time, claiming that the God of the Old Testament is evil.

I agree that these claims are ridiculous.

The bible is full of proof that God’s people sin, whether adherents of Judaism in the Old Testament or Christians in the new.

First John reminds us that we do sin, and that we need to daily confess our sin to God to maintain our relationship with Him. It also says that if we calim NOT to have any sin, we are lying and calling God a liar. This is NOT written to unbeievers, it is written to Christians. John says in chapter 2 that “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous”. Does Jesus represent those who are not His? No. Jesus is OUR advocate, standing by our side as OUR advocate when WE sin. He then goes on to talk about how those he is speaking to know the truth, how they have overcome the evil one, and that they know God. If Christians cannot sin, why is John talking to Christians about the need to confess? God’s people can sin, and some of them have committed doozies.

I will get to this in a moment, but first, “sin” needs to be defined. I have often seen the definition “to miss the mark.” While this is what the word translated “sin” does literally mean, it’s not useful until the mark is known. What the mark is can be discussed another time, but for now let it be sufficient to say that sin is the willful violation of God’s commands. (God’s commands can be summed up in this verse: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Also, to love our neighbor.)

It may take some time to unravel the incorrect, but common, interpretation presented here. My opponent is first referencing 1 John 1:5-10. All of this must be viewed as one thought, beginning with the first verse.

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life– and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us– what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” (1 John 1:1-10)

Beginning in verse 5, John is trying to explain how one can have eternal life (or fellowship with God). He starts out by saying that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. In the following verses he goes on to say that those who claim to have eternal life but walk in darkness are lying, but those who do walk in the Light have eternal life and have been cleansed from all sin. This is an important distinction to make. Without it, we are left with the conclusion that those who walk in darkness are also cleansed from sin, which is supported by no Scripture.

My opponent’s main issue lies with verse 8: “If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” My opponent claims that this verse proves Christians do sin.

One is immediately struck by two important clauses in verses 7 and 9. Verse 7 tells us that “if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Verse 9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” These clauses cannot be ignored in understanding verse 8.

If we are to take my opponent’s interpretation of 1 John 1:8 as valid, then John contradicted himself. If he is correct, in the middle of two phrases declaring that Jesus has cleansed believers of all unrighteousness (sin), we are told that believers sin. Put yet again, people who have been cleansed from all sin still sin. But how is it possible for someone who has been cleansed from all unrighteousness to sin? Perhaps Jesus didn’t do a good job? Because it is an indisputable fact that those who sin are not righteous. Yet believers are righteous.

This insistence on verse 8 declaring sinful Christians also runs into a problem in regards to time frame. If I may be permitted to speak from experience, I have been called a liar by claiming to have not sinned in several months, using verse 8 as a defense. Let’s adjust the claim slightly: “I have not sinned in five seconds.” Everything in the claim is identical except for the time frame. Most will permit a sinless five seconds, and the few that don’t will not be addressed here. (These are the ones who are not satisfied with one microsecond.) Now, if one instance is permitted, what makes the other a lie? They are the exact same condition, only with a different time frame.

Looking at verse 10 aids the understanding of this passage. It says, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” In light of the clear promise that believers are cleansed from all unrighteousness and all sin, it is most reasonable to conclude that the ones who claim to have not sinned are unbelievers. If they claim to have not sinned, they do not consider themselves to be in need of salvation. This is what makes God out to be a liar, because He says they have sinned.

It should be clear by now that the “we” in 1 John 1 does not mean “we Christians.” There are two groups of people in “we”: those who walk in the darkness and those who walk in the light. Those who walk in the darkness are not saved, and they must confess their sins. Those who walk in the light are believers and have been cleansed from sin.

My opponent continues his incorrect assumption when reading 1 John 2. He automatically assumes that it is a Christian who is sinning in the first verses. A closer look at the pronouns used will reveal this is not the case. In verse 1, John states that he writes these things to his readers so that “you” may not sin. In the next sentence he immediately switches gears, saying “if anyone sins.” That is a flag that John is not talking about the same group of people anymore. Otherwise, he would have said, “if you sin.” But he didn’t.

He does correctly state that unbelievers do not have our Advocate, but he errs after this by forcing the notion that Christians sin on the verse. Here is a better interpretation: Sinners do not have an Advocate; Christians do. The Christian’s duty is to share our Advocate by proclaiming the message of the Gospel, so that the sinners may become believers.

But that alone is not enough to provide evidence for my claim. It comes from the next four verses:

“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”

In this passage John tells the audience how to know if someone knows God. It should be obvious that, in light of chapter one, to know God is to be a believer. Therefore, we see that those who keep God’s commandments are the true believers, and those who do not keep His commandments are not believers at all. The Christian, then, is recognized by his obedience.

If, as John says, the true believers are the ones who keep God’s commandments, then the statement that Jesus stands as our Advocate when we sin has no scriptural basis.

I find it interesting that Oren admits John’s audience has overcome the evil one, then falls back on this and says that the overcomers need to know God. Nowhere in the text can this assumption (that the overcomers need to know God) be made. In fact, it is because they know God that they have overcome the wicked one.

Adam and Eve were the first. Their sin had an almost unfathomable cost. It broke their communion with nature, with the animals, and most importantly, with God. All people forever afterward would be cursed because of what they did. Cain was the first murderer, and was cursed to wander the Earth for his crime. Moses failed to glorify God when he struck the rock to make it produce water, and for that, he was cursed to never enter the promised land. David had an affair and covered it up by having her husband murdered. He was cursed with the promise that trouble would never leave his house. Peter publicly renounced Jesus three times. His curse was self-imposed. He never forgave himself for the rest of his life.

And all the examples given are of unregenerate men (and before the giving of the Holy Spirit), so it neither helps nor hinders either argument.

Have you ever broken your favorite cup? You know that if you try to repair it, it’s never going to be the same. Sometimes it breaks in such a way that it can still be used as a cup. It just doesn’t look as good. More often, though, it is no longer good for holding liquids, and is retired to life as a pencil can. But you know what? Even if it becomes useless as a drinking vessel, it does not cease to be a cup. And the fact that you took the time to glue it back together testifies to the fact that you still treasure it.
Adam’s days of walking with God in the garden of Eden were over, but He still loved God. He and Eve thanked God for giving them Seth, and they taught him about God. Cain was placed under God’s protection. God placed his mark on Cain and vowed vengance upon anyone who would dare to kill him. Moses was taken to paradise after viewing the promised land, and he DID in fact set foot there when he spoke to Jesus during the transfiguration. David was commended as being a man after God’s own heart, save in the matter of Uriah, and was promised that his dynasty would endure forever. Peter was restored to fellowship by Jesus who confirmed his love three times. Peter is now one of Heaven’s 24 elders. Now Peter did sin later in his life, as Paul attests when he chews Peter out in Acts for snubbing the gentile brothers. This didn’t make him any less of a Christian. All of these people broke when they sinned. Some were still useful for their original purpose. Some were not. And while I can’t say for sure about Adam, Eve or Cain, I know that David, Moses and Peter are among God’s most precious friends to this day.

Interesting illustration, but I have no idea where he is going with it so I will ignore it until it can be clarified. All but Peter were not regenerate, so that does not help him. Now for Peter.

My opponent is pointing to Paul’s rebuke of Peter in the book of Galatians. Admittedly this is a more difficult passage, but I will attempt to show that the accusation being made here is not valid.

It would be wrong to try to force an interpretation in which Peter in the right in this passage, so that will not be done. We need to let Scripture interpret Scripture.

In order to say that Peter sinned, my objector must actually prove that Peter sinned. Most likely this will come from the use of the word “hypocrisy” in the passage, so we will focus on that.

The word “hypocrisy” is transliterated from the Greek, but it does not follow that we must translate the word used as “hypocrisy.” That is fallacious. Literally, the word used means “to play or act out a part,” and it can be good or bad. In light of the fact that the word has come to mean a bad acting that is always a sin, it is best to remove that term until we know what kind of acting Paul was talking about. We know that Peter would act as a Gentile around the Gentiles and as a Jew around Jews. So did Paul:

“To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” (1 Corinthians 9:20-23)

Peter was doing what Paul had taught, so that was not the problem. What Paul needed to do, though, is tell Peter that his method was wrong. By acting like the Jews and withdrawing from the Gentiles, he was preaching an inconsistency.

But one cannot immediately call that a sin, unless one can prove that Peter knew better. There is, however, no evidence for that claim.

What we are left with is Paul showing the Gentiles that adherence to the Law is not a requirement of salvation. Paul does not accuse Peter of sin, and he definitely doesn’t say all Christians sin.

But since this passage is unclear, it is best to not struggle with it and interpret the passage in the light of one that is clear, namely the passages from 1 John. Since 1 John is adamant that Christians do not sin, it is best to conclude that Peter did not in fact sin.

If you sin, and make no mistake, you will, You do not cease to be a Christian. You are forgiven. You were already forgiven back in 33 AD. That doesn’t make it acceptable, but it does make it survivable. You may have done something extremely wicked. You may even have to serve an extremely severe punishment here on Earth. You may go so far as to do irreperable damage to your testimony. Many have. There are far too many people who were once bright lights for God but through sin and scandal have made themselves practically useless. These unfortunately self-destructive saints have brought shame to the name of Christ. But they are still saints. God is a father who loves His children. A good father loves his children even when they are bad. He hates the bad things they do, but he does not hate his children. He punishes them because he loves them. The bible says that God chastens us because He loves us, and if He did not do so, we would be as illegitimate offspring.

In the first sentence, he negates the promise of God (1 Corinthians 10:13). He also makes a blunder about forgiveness, but that is a topic for another day (No one is forgiven until he or she repents.) And I must say that his “don’t be afraid when you sin” attitude is dangerous. Hebrews 10:26-29 says,

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”

That alone should give pause to those who say that sinning Christians are still saved (if they ever were).

It appears he thinks that chastening and sinning go hand-in-hand, but he doesn’t provide his reasons for that. So I will withhold my opinion on that subject until a later date, should he choose to engage in a discussion on the topic.

To be an Oracle

Recently Mr. Davis posted a new blog entry about what it means to be an Oracle of Fire. The term “Oracle of Fire” comes from his book series by the same name, which is a spin-off of the Dragons in our Midst series. When he began the series, he did not know for certain what the term meant, although the dedication page of Eye of the Oracle suggests he may have had something in mind from the beginning.

He provides a newer definition from his to-be-released book The Bones of Makaidos, in which a character states that an Oracle is someone who will “Speak the truth. Live the truth. Be the truth.” I will not post any more on this blog, but those who are interested can go to his Issues Blog and read more about it.

So why do I post this?

It is because I cannot keep silent about the deception in this world. God has put a fire in my heart that cannot be quenched, and my efforts to not speak all fail. Even in the face of adversity from without the church and even from within, God has called me to be a light in the darkness.
This calling can take on more than one form. To the United States, I must plead with the people to return to the One whom they claim to serve. A people who at one second pray and proclaim, “God bless America!” or “In God we trust” when a second later they applaud debauchery and the murder of countless innocents.

And in the church, we face those who would say that God will look away from any sins we commit. We are forgiven, and when we sin God sees the imputed righteousness of Jesus. What slander! To think that God will excuse sin. Will God be deceived? Will he allow these pretenders dressed in filthy robes to enter His kingdom? Certainly not. Some have said that the obedient are bastard sons, because they have no sins to confess. At the same time, the ones who call on God’s name and simultaneously admit to sinning daily are the sons of God? The Lord Himself states that those who commit sin are slaves to sin, not sons of God. We must warn them and lead them to the truth.

God, let me take a stand against this deception. Give me Your message, and speak through my imperfect lips. Everything I have, everything I am is Yours. Let me be a light guiding the blind to You. In opposition, be my comfort. In times of trial, be my strength.

Let me be an Oracle of Fire.

Edit: I will probably not be accepting anonymous comments from this point on. If you would like to comment and don’t have an account here, post some sort of identifier (real name, username, something like that) with your comment. Thank you.